FRIENDS FOREVER : The Legacy of Camp Gay (2001-2005)
A project by Brandon Alvendia
In consultation with Camp Gay members, including Todd Bailey & Bridgette Buckley.
June 4 – 26, 2011
Opening reception – Saturday, June 4, 7-10pm
Closing reception & director Michael Thibault’s going away BASH – Sunday, June 26, 7-10pm
Featuring special guest bands, performers and activities (schedule forthcoming).
2007 N. Point St.
Chicago, IL 60647
1 (312) 646-0694 for appointments
Picture the area directly across the famed Margie’s Candies at Armitage and Western, the sleepy Cole Taylor Bank with its drive-up ATM lanes or the Walgreens and its crazy-busy parking lot with absurdly narrow spots and sun-distorted window displays (featuring comfortably happy families from all walks of life).
Now recall the same area a decade ago where a deserted parking lot with a seriously run-down White Castle restaurant sat, complete with a bullet-proof window and slot for money and sliders, a bathroom with an aluminum-sink continually overflowing with murky water and strong odor of feces, urine and stale blunt smoke and a sticky, greasy patina of filth and dilapidated air of defeat (often represented by the occasional homeless tramp nodding off on a broken swivel chair). Also, imagine no Belly Shack (Vella), Green Eye or any of the other upstanding businesses in the area.
Currently, just a short walk west at Point and Armitage, a storefront contemporary art space stands called MONUMENT 2 (as well as the apartment gallery DIG and local hair salon Twisted Scissors, both offering PBRs to visitors). MONUMENT 2, headed by artist and organizer Michael Thibault, has hosted regular monthly programming, exhibiting the efforts of a community of young artists and other cultural producers based locally, nationally or abroad for roughly 2 years.
If you rewind your fuzzy memory a decade ago (your 20s? Teens?) you might remember walking past a shabby non-descript building at the same corner at Point and Armitage. The one sheathed with weathered grey plywood for windows and a gravel parking lot around back. If you were lucky, you would hear from a friend of a friend about a raging party there (where they blacked-out from one too many Cobra 40s). If you were fortunate to get on the email list (since there was scant web presence) you would be privy to the community and culture of the legendary art/music/performance space Camp Gay.
This project is a celebration of Camp Gay (and by proxy, MONUMENT 2), the communities formed, good times had and the ongoing history of artist-run DIY spaces that Chicago is renowned for. It is also an examination of the gradual development of local culture through the presence of artists, musicians and other creative spirits tapped into more expansive global histories of creative production.
The impetus for the project stems from artist/curator Brandon Alvendia’s visit to Camp Gay where he met MONUMENT 2 director Michael Thibault for the first time. The title FRIENDS FOREVER takes its name from the headlining band for the night, Friends Forever, known for playing their shows not on stage but in public on their well-travelled van on the street. That night they didn’t get to play, as the Chicago Police Department took a break from busting gang activity to stop the “illegal” performance before it began. This is perhaps a fitting moment that might represent the struggle of alternative communities to exist when continually forming and disbanding under the surface of official culture and mainstream society. In many ways the overall project recognizes the temporary nature of such communities and the inevitable need to properly bid farewell, as this project represents the last at MONUMENT 2.
This project consists of an immersive installation of a fragmented and loose recreation of the Camp Gay space in MONUMENT 2. The elements are partly created from hazy memories and partly from a slew of less than archival-quality documentation (of the camera phone variety). Later in the run of the show, the installation will be host to music performances and other activities recalling the vibrant nature of the Camp Gay philosophy. In an adjacent space, the main installation will be supplemented by a modest display of Camp Gay documentation and related materials, including a special architectural model crafted specifically for the project by original Camp Gay member and Chicago-based designer Bridgette Buckley. Visitors are encouraged to wax nostalgic about the space by sharing stories and other media.
Excerpts from email correspondence with co-founder Todd Bailey:
“Paul Davis and I found Camp Gay (by which I mean answered an ad in the reader) and moved in there with Owen Merrick and Ray Rodriguez (and some other guy who lived there for a week who I can’t remember) sometime in the summer of 2001. Bridgette and I (mostly Bridgette) built a stage shortly after. Owen and I (mostly Owen) built a fireman’s pole. After that there were a ton of people who had a lot to do with making it the awesome place that it was. They all had input in some way or another.”
Other members included: “Erik Schwartz, Hasan Schabaz, Nate Murphy, Nick Read, Shelly Steffens, Donny Mahlmeister, Mikale DeGraff, Jenn Wallach, Julie Luther, Rob Ray, Edgar and Mauricio Barriga, etc etc. They were all OG’s if you ask me. Oh yeah, and Tony from Tasty Freeze. The camp gay dog was named Essie; that dead cat is named Party.”
“I loved camp gay. It was real dirty.”
The following bands/events/etc. played/happened/etc. at Camp Gay:
parts & labor, jeremy jacobsen [lonesone organist], ledeuce, the potions, 2002 beige world cassette jockey championships, crush kill destroy, occasional detroit, voltage, extreme animals, maxell, andy ortman [panicsville], the copper lions, dj ronald reagan, mauricio barriga, howard stelzer, the nervous, the ground monkeys, monster attacks king noise machine, the narrator, merce cunningham [the band], kevin drumm, Are Mookklebost/Single Unit, mommy won’t wake up, life rocks!, dj rudy tardy, first annual chicago nerd battle, the candyland riots, taking pictures, colossal, bodenstandig 2000, gay nerdz/paperrad, 2003 beige cassette jockey world championships, dj cougar shuttle.
More information on Camp Gay:
Chicago Reader article by Liz Armstrong here:
2004 BEIGE CJ World Championship photos:
Good representation of the lazy-period of Camp Gay website upkeep (which to
say the whole time):